Blu-ray News and Reviews | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Sale Price: $ Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party In Stock
Release Date: November 28th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1966

La Guerre Est Finie

Overview -

The Film Desk, publisher of great world cinema books, has extended their shingle to Blu-rays (via OCN Distribution) and the initial handful of releases have been outstanding. Their disc for Alain Resnais's fourth feature, La Guerre Est Finie (The War Is Over), not only revives a neglected French classic, but it does so in style (courtesy of a gorgeous new 4K restoration). Screenwriter Jorge Semprún would be instrumental in putting star Yves Montand at the center of two further political thrillers after this: Z and The Confession. Fans of those Costa-Gavras-directed flicks will find much to like in this Franco-era story of a Spanish Communist spy at the end of his rope. Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
This special limited edition slipcover (designed by Brandon Schaefer) is limited to 1,000 units
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
French DTS-HD MA 1.0
Release Date:
November 28th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


In La Guerre Est Finie, Yves Montand stars as an operative in the Spanish Communist underground who is stuck between the past and future. The film is set just before May Day in 1965, more than two decades after dictator Francisco Franco took control of Spain and declared the Spanish Civil War was "over." This quote is what the film's title is referencing, and the statement reverberates ironically across the events of the three days that La Guerre Est Finie covers. Montand's character -- who is known by multiple aliases in different scenes, but whose real name is probably Diego -- fought in the Civil War and has been working with the underground since. He is constantly thinking and worrying about what needs to be done for the present and the future, though many of his comrades seem stuck reflecting on the war. For some, the war is over; for others, it continues every day.

After directing a trio of films about characters haunted by memory -- Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad, and Muriel -- Alain Resnais seems stubbornly determined to highlight a character whose mind is always on what's to come. The opening thirty minutes of the film follow Diego as he makes a potentially dicey border crossing from Spain to France in the aftermath of targeted arrests of some of his comrades. He has encounters with checkpoint police (including one officer played by the great Michel Piccoli) and with other collaborators, but they are punctuated by flashes of other events. Initially, the viewer is left to wonder if these are flashbacks, but soon it becomes obvious that these are Diego's projections of what might happen next to him and his friends.

Diego is anxious that one of his comrades, Juan, might fall into a trap in Madrid and be arrested with the others. The higher-ups in the Party are more focused on prepping a May Day general strike and seemingly are willing to let Juan be sacrificed. Diego is dubious that the general strike will be effective, so this amplifies his anxiety and alienation.

The film is a fascinating mix of New Wave spy thriller (complete with modernist editing) and existential character study. After its tense and terse opening thirty minutes, the film gets ruminative as Diego settles into an evening in Paris. He has two sexual interludes, one with a young student whose father is instrumental in the Communist cause, Nadine (a baby-faced Geneviève Bujold), and another with his long-time lover Marianne (Ingmar Bergman regular Ingrid Thulin), a single mother who wants to make a family with Diego. Diego's lifestyle isn't compatible with long-term commitments, but life with Marianne is at least tempting.

For the rest of the film, Diego's values are tested and he tries not to get arrested. He discovers that Nadine is part of a pro-Communist student cell that are planning to start a bombing campaign. They try to enlist Diego to join them but he is enough of a pro to see that these young people are a liability and not a help.

Resnais is as at home with the scenes of romantic strife and longing as he is with the tense spy scenes. In both cases, the film is a masterclass in acting subtext, as the real interactions are going on in the words that are not being said. Montand conveys strength and weariness with every breath. Thulin conveys weariness too, but countered by a passion that her character and Montand's can truly lead a better life together. Bujold is enigmatic, mischievous, and totally magnetic.

Ultimately, the film ends on an ellipsis, with many of its story threads left dangling. Resnais's storytelling strategies might leave some viewers thinking they've been given a puzzle without all the pieces, but this approach effectively underlines the film's portrait of Diego as a lifer in the underground. The work is never done, the war is never over.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
La Guerre Est Finie comes in a standard-sized keepcase. Unsurprisingly, since The Film Desk started in books, the disc is accompanied by a generous booklet featuring writing by Jorge Semprún and Marguerite Duras (newly translated by Nicholas Elliott), Michael Caen, and Andrew Sarris, plus a 1966 interview with Alain Resnais by Robert Benayoun (newly translated by Craig Keller). A limited edition slipcover is still currently available on the Vinegar Syndrome website. The disc loads to a Film Desk logo then transitions to a full-motion menu.

Video Review


Sourced from a new 4K restoration, this AVC-encoded 1080p 1.66:1 presentation is impeccable. The crispness and clarity of Sacha Vierny's black-and-white cinematography is beautifully translated to digital. The blacks are inky with nuanced contrast and excellent shadow detail in dark scenes. Brighter scenes are balanced and finely detailed. No noticeable dirt and damage, and the image looks organic and pleasing in motion.

Audio Review


The film is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix. Most of the film is presented in French with burned-in English subtitles; scattered dialogue exchanges are in Spanish without subtitles. One sequence where all the characters are speaking Spanish features French-language overdubs (kind of like on a news broadcast), which are then subtitled. While the soundtrack is somewhat limited because of its age, the design is effectively naturalistic with some stylized interludes. Giovanni Fusco, who also scored Hiroshima Mon Amour, provides tastefully romantic musical accompaniment.

Special Features


Besides the thoughtful and overstuffed accompanying booklet, the on-disc extras are much more about quality than quantity.

  • Guernica Short Film (HD, 14 mins.) - Directed by Alain Resnais and Robert Hessens in 1951, this film poetically investigates the 1937 bombing of the Basque village of Guernica. The filmmakers use photography and art to illustrate their descriptions, ultimately dissecting the figures in Picasso's world-famous painting.

  • Audio commentary by Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López - Two Spain-based film critics offer a throughly researched and thoughtfully constructed exploration of the film in terms of history, performance, and filmmaking. Truly, a stellar critical commentary.

  • New trailer (HD, 2 mins.)

Final Thoughts

It's a treat for fans of classic French cinema to see director Alain Resnais and writer Jorge Semprún's undersung spy story come to Blu-ray in such an attractive and thoughtfully supplemented package. The booklet of archival writing is expertly curated, and the on-disc extras -- while small in number -- truly enrich the viewing experience. Fans of star Yves Montand's later work in Semprún's political thrillers written for director Costa-Gavras will also find La Guerre Est Finie a must-see. Highly Recommended.

Order Your Copy of La Guerre Est Finie on Blu-ray